Saturday, May 28, 2011

Caprese Salad


My current favorite food obsession is this salad.  I could eat this entire bowl.  And then lick the sauce off the bottom.  It is THAT good.

This is a good recipe to have on hand for those times when your garden overfloweth---tomatoes and basil from the garden, for the win!

I already know that we will be eating this A LOT this summer.  It's so quick to make, and so fresh.  And my 2 year old eats it by the fist full. 

Caprese Salad
  • 1/4 tsp. salt & 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 8 oz. FRESH mozzarella cheese
  • 5 fresh tomatoes (I used on the vine tomatoes) if you use roma, you'll need more
  • 10 basil leaves
  • 2 T. red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Dice your tomatoes---seeding them before you dice.  (Scoop out the goop, basically).  Place your tomatoes in a mesh strainer, and place over a bowl, to catch the liquid.  Toss the tomatoes with sugar and salt.  Let rest over the bowl to drain the excess liquid from the tomatoes.
  2. Cut the mozzarella into bite sized pieces.  Depending on how fresh your mozzarella is (make sure you buy the fresh kind, and not the kind you can get at a deli), you'll need to dry it off a little, or let it sit on your cutting board for a bit.  (If it is really wet, just tap a paper towel over it to absorb some moisture.)
  3. In a blender, combine the vinegar, minced garlic, dijon mustard, salt & pepper, and blend until combined.  Slowly stream in the olive oil, until it is emulsified and frothy.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  4. Take your basil leaves and stack them on top of eachother.  Roll them up tight like you are rolling up a cigar (hey...), then slice them in thin strips.  You can add more basil if you want, depending on the size of your basil leaves.
  5. Combine the tomatoes, cheese, and basil in a bowl.  Pour dressing over and toss to combine.  Let rest for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  6. ***Sometimes I'll add some of the drained tomato liquid to the dressing---SO good!!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Potstickers




Little pockets of delicious goodness.  That's what these potstickers are!! 

They are shockingly easy to make.  A tiny bit time consuming, putting them together by hand, and cooking in batches.  But, oh, so worth it! 

This recipe makes about 30 potstickers.  I suggest doubling or tripling it, and freezing them.  Freeze them BEFORE you cook, or they will be a hot mess.  [I would flash freeze them----line them up on a baking sheet, and put them in the freezer for a few hours, until solid, and then package them for longer term freezing.]

Chicken Potstickers
  • 1 c. cabbage (chopped finely)
  • 3 green onions (chopped finely)
  • 1/3 c. water chestnuts (chopped finely---do you sense a pattern?)
  • 1 T. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. fresh grated ginger (about 1")
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 large chicken breast (about 1/2 lb.)
  • won ton wrappers (I buy them in the store in the refrigerated section)
  • water
  • cornstarch
  • vegetable oil
Sauce
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. rice vinegar (can sub white wine vinegar)
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 T. honey
  • dash of red pepper flakes (optional)
  1. Start by cutting your raw chicken breast into big chunks.  Grind it in your food processor until you get "ground chicken".  Alternately, you can buy ground chicken, but really?  It is so much easier and cheaper to do it yourself!  Place chicken in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. You can finely chop all of the ingredients, and add them to your bowl.  Or do as I do: process them each in your food processor, then add them to the bowl!  So much quicker, and keeps everything about the size you need!
  3. Add in soy sauce, salt, ginger and oil.  Mix together with hands, until completely combined.
  4. One at a time, take a won ton wrapper (keep the others covered with a damp kitchen towel, so they won't dry out), and place about 1 tsp. of filling in the middle of the wrapper.  Take a finger, dip it in a bowl of cold water, and run it along all of the edges of the wonton wrapper.  (So, all four sides will be wet.)  Fold up two opposite corners, hold together, and fold up the other two corners, connecting and sealing them at the top.  Sounds confusing, but really isn't.  Hopefully you can tell by the picture above, how they meet.
  5. Place the sealed potsticker on a sheet pan sprinkled with cornstarch.  Cover the completed potstickers with a damp towel while you work on the rest.
  6. To cook:  You'll cook them in batches, so it can be a tiny bit time consuming, but not hard! [I usually cook about 8-10 at a time in the pan.]  In a medium to large non-stick skillet heat about 1 Tablespoon (can use 2, but I found it to be too much oil!), over medium-high heat.
  7. Add potstickers, and cook until the bottoms are golden brown, about 2 minutes.   Adjust heat if necessary.  If the oil is spitting at you too much, turn it down.  You want it bubbling a bit, but not, you know, giving you 3rd degree burns.
  8. Carefully add about 1/2 cup of water to the pan.  Most of the oil has cooked off by this point, but there will be some left in the pan, that's okay!  Just make sure the heat is turned down enough that when you add the water, you don't start gunfire!!  Depending on the size of your pan, you might need to add a bit more water---to make sure it covers the bottom.
  9. Cover the pan immediately with a lid, and cook for 4 minutes.  Uncover, and cook for about 3 more minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates. Remove cooked postickers, and store them in something with a lid, while the others cook.  The steam will keep them warm.  (I used a glass baking dish with a lid.)
  10. Repeat for remaining potstickers.
To make dipping sauce:
  1. Combine all ingredients and whisk well together. 
  2. Serve with cooked potstickers.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Vanilla Bean Strawberry Ice Cream




It's that time of year---I can finally break out the ice cream maker!  (Well...hopefully soon.  I'll ignore the fact that as I am writing this, it feels more like November than May!) 

The other night we had an impromptu barbecue, and I decided to make ice cream for the first time this year.  It was a HIT. 

Of course, my fridge was busting at the seams with strawberries, so I knew I'd have to include those.  And vanilla bean paste, because really, why wouldn't I?  Of course, I had just made some strawberry sauce, so I figured it was a match made in heaven!!

And boy, was it.

Vanilla Bean Strawberry Ice Cream

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, stemmend and chopped
  • 3 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 c. sugar, divided
  • 1 c. milk (you could use whole, but I used 1%)
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or vanilla bean, or vanilla extract)
  1. In a small bowl, combine the finely chopped strawberries with the lemon juice and 1/3 cup of the sugar.  Stir gently and allow the strawberries to macerate in the juice for about 2 hours.  (If you like bigger strawberries, you can leave them bigger, but they will freeze in big rock chunks that will be hard to eat, so I suggest chopping them pretty finely.)
  2. In a medium bowl, use a mixer or a whisk to combine the milk and the rest of the sugar (2/3 c.) until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes on low speed.  Stir in the heavy cream, vanilla, and the juices from the strawberries.
  3. Add to ice cream maker and freeze until thickened.  During the last 5 minutes, add strawberries. 
  4. Remove and store in a freezer-safe container and freeze until hard.
Serve topped with strawberry sauce.ALTERNATE DIRECTIONS:
Strawberry Revel
-Prepare as above, except when transferring the ice cream from the maker to a container, mix in streams of the strawberry sauce, to create a revel.  Don't mix!  Leave the streams of strawberry sauce flowing through the ice cream.  Freeze until hard.



Sunday, May 22, 2011

Strawberry Sauce

Confusing picture...but trust me, I'll make it all come together!

As you know, I love strawberries.  Probably one of my all time favorite fruits---and that is saying a lot, since I could live off of fresh fruit! 

I love to make strawberry sauce! It's so simple to make, and honestly can be used in literally hundreds of ways.  Heat it up and serve it with pancakes or waffles, serve it over angel food cake, or with strawberry shortcake, mix it into yogurt, freeze it in ice cube trays and pop them into lemonade (hey, I just thought of that one!), add it to smoothies, the list goes on and on!  Or, you can do as I did in this picture---make a strawberry lime rickey! 


This isn't really a "recipe" as much as a method.  I don't usually measure when I make this, but I can give you estimates.  It doesn't need to be exact, it will still be great!
Also, this is a great use for those strawberries that aren't perfect---maybe even a tiny bit overripe.  This recipe will also freeze well. 

Stay tuned for a recipe featuring this strawberry sauce!!


Strawberry Sauce
  • 1 small container of strawberries (you can easily double, etc.)
  • 1/4 c. white sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla bean (if you don't have either---use vanilla extract)
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  1. Wash and cut your strawberries.  No need to be exact or precise---they'll be blended up anyway! 
  2. Combine strawberries, sugar, vanilla (in whatever form) and lemon juice in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until it simmers and berries start to break down.  Between 5 & 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
  4. Add contents to blender and completely puree.
I store mine in a squeezey bottle (like a ketchup/mustard bottle), and store it in the fridge. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pesto Ricotta Pasta


This meal fits the bill for quick, tasty dinner.  You know, for those months of baseball season, when you have one in t-ball, one in coach pitch, and your husband is the coach of both teams.  Oh, that happens to you too?

If you make your pesto in advance (I usually make it in batches and keep in the fridge), this will come together really quickly.  If you don't want to make your pesto, you can easily substitute store bought.  But, really, it's so quick to make, it won't add that much work. 

I have posted a recipe before where I made pesto using spinach, which is super tasty!  You can use that here, or traditional basil pesto.  (I tend to like walnuts better in my pesto, rather than pinenuts!)

This recipe is easily made with chicken or without, both are fantastic!

Pesto Ricotta Pasta

  • 1 lb. pasta (like penne or rotini)
  • olive oil
  • 1-2 chicken breasts (if desired)
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup (or more) ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup (or more) pesto
  • 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  1. Boil your pasta according to package directions until it is al dente; drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a skillet heat olive oil over medium heat.  If you are using chicken, dice it into bite sized pieces, season with salt and pepper, and saute over medium heat in the olive oil until cooked through.  Add garlic to pan about 2 minutes before chicken is finished---not at the beginnging or the garlic will burn.  Once the garlic is added, stir more often to keep it from burning.
  3. Add drained pasta, pesto and ricotta.  Turn heat to low.  Mix together until pesto coats all of the pasta, and the ricotta breaks down.  You can add more or less of the ricotta and pesto according to your preference.
  4. Add in parmesan cheese, and mix until slightly melted, then stir in tomatoes.  Stir just until the tomatoes are warmed through.
  5. Serve.
**This would also be good with some fresh baby spinach, just add a few handfuls at the end, and cook until it wilts. 

***Make a big batch of pesto early in the week and then use it to make quick meals like this, pesto turkey burgers, green pit-za or the pesto pasta I posted previously.  The meals won't taste the same, but will utilize the same base, which will save time, and won't waste the extra pesto!  I also have a great recipe coming using more pesto (a fun meatball slider)!  This is a great idea for the busy dinner nights, or weeks when dinner needs to be fast! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vermont Oatmeal Bread (aka: the best toast bread)





I have a thing for bread.  I know, I know.  It isn't that great for you....but listen, my friends, moderation.  And running, lots and lots of running.

And, not just bread, but toast. I love toast!  In fact, when I was pregnant with my 2nd child (a little dude called Camden), I ate toast a lot.  Toast with peanut butter and honey on top.  I also threw up a lot of toast, and never gained weight.  I totally should have eaten more!

This bread is fantastic toasted (with peanut butter and honey, or so I hear).  My littles loved this toasted, not toasted, in any form.

Vermont Oatmeal Bread
*recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour
  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 c. boiling water
  • 1 c. oats (any kind)
  • 1/2 c. maple sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 T. honey
  • 4 T. butter
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 T. instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 4 c. unbleached flour
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, oats, maple/brown sugar, honey, butter, salt and cinnamon.  Let cool to luke warm.  (I add it all to my mixing bowl.)
  2. Once it is luke warm, add the yeast and flours, stirring to form a rough dough.  Knead (about 10 minutes by hand, 5 to 7 minutes by machine) until the dough is smooth and satiny.  (If dough is really sticky, add a tiny bit more flour, if it is too dry, add a tiny bit more water.)
  3. Transfer the dough to a large bowl, sprayed with non-stick spray, and cover with plastic wrap, also sprayed with non-stick spray.  Let rise for 1 hour; it should double in bulk.
  4. Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a loaf.  Place the loaves in two greased bread pans.  Cover the pans with lightly sprayed plastic wrap and allow them to rise until they've come up about 1 inch over the rim of the pan.  (1 to 1 1/2 hours.)
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the loaves for 35 to 40 minutes.  Remove them from the oven when they are golden brown.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Best Burger Bun & Everyday Burger


Hello warm weather (well, we had 2 days of it...), and hello grill!!

You may remember me making my own homemade buns.  However, I no longer have a bread maker.  It was eating up space in my kitchen, and I only ever used it to process dough, and even then, I didn't use it often.  Plus, I really disliked the fact that my previous bun recipe uses shortening. 

It's a great recipe, so try it!  But, I'm a girl who likes options (for real, you should see my eyeshadow drawer). 

These buns are my new "go to" recipe!  I make them, freeze half and use half.  They are amazing!!!

Also included---a great basic burger recipe.  This is one you can throw together with things you have on hand.  I love to make crazy flavored burgers, but sometimes classic is a good thing!!


Burger Buns

*alternately, these could be hot dog buns, sandwich rolls, etc.

  • 1 c. warm water
  • 2 T. butter (slightly softened, the warm water will also help with this)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 1/2 c. unbleached flour (you can also use 1/2 white and 1/2 wheat)
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. instant yeast
  1. Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl, and mix.  Knead together, by hand or machine (using dough hook if you are using a mixer) until you've made a soft smooth dough.  (About 5 minutes by machine.) 
  2. Place dough in a large bowl that has been lightly sprayed with non-cook spray.  Cover with plastic wrap (also sprayed with non-stick spray), and let rise for 1 hour.
  3. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (less if you are making slider buns).  I like to use my bench knife for this.  Shape each into a ball, and slightly flatten them.  Place the buns on a greased baking sheet.  Cover with a loose towel and let rise for about 40 minutes, until they are quite puffy.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bake the buns for 12-15 minutes (mine took about 15), until they're golden brown.  Remove them from the oven and cool on a wire rack. 
*I find that these buns are best toasted---I don't like to butter them (though some do), instead, I just split them, and place them face down on the top rack of my grill during the last few minutes of the burgers cooking.  Alternately, you could broil them in the oven.
Great Basic Burgers

  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground beef (or turkey)
  • 3 T. steak sauce (A1, or the like)
  • 1 1/2 T. dijon mustard
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 T. dehydrated onion
  1. Combine everything together in a large bowl.  Mix until it is combined, but don't over mix. 
  2. Form into patties---you can either do 4 burgers or 6, depending on how big you like them.  Form them with a small well in the middle---this will help the burgers to not shrink as much during cooking.
  3. Cook on  preheated grill for about 5* minutes a side.  (*This can vary widely based on how hot your grill is, and how you like your burgers cooked!)
  4. If desired, place cheese on burgers during the last minute of cooking.
  5. Serve on awesome homeade buns, and top as desired.